MINNEAPOLIS -- Max Kepler hit a pair of three-run homers to help set the Twins rookie record for RBIs in a game with seven, while fellow former top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton also had big days at the plate in a 17-5 rout of the Rangers on Saturday at Target Field. The 17 runs were a team high for Minnesota this season, and the most since scoring 20 against the Tigers on Aug. 22, 2014.
Kepler, 23, connected on a three-run homer in the second and another three-run shot in the fifth, while Sano, 23, crushed a two-run blast in the third and drew a bases loaded walk in the fifth. Buxton, 22, had two hits, including an RBI triple off the wall in the third inning. All-Star candidate Eduardo Nunez also collected four hits, three runs and two RBIs, while backup catcher Juan Centeno had two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored.
"Yesterday I felt like I was rushing, so I told myself to slow it down today," Kepler said. "I tried to keep it simple after trying to do too much yesterday on some pitches. So it just worked out in my favor."
The offense backed right-hander Tyler Duffey, who went six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits to get his team-leading fourth win of the year. The Rangers hit two homers off Duffey as part of a three-run fourth inning. Ryan Rua was the first to connect with a solo shot, before Robinson Chirinos launched a two-run blast into the second deck in left. Shin-Soo Choo later added a solo homer off reliever Michael Tonkin in the seventh.
Rangers right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez, making his second start of the year, recorded just two outs, allowing four runs (one earned), as he was hurt by sloppy infield defense in the first inning. Lefty Cesar Ramos came on in relief and surrendered seven runs over 2 1/3 innings, while right-hander Luke Jackson gave up six runs in 1 2/3 frames.
Texas used a position player to pitch, as backup catcher Bryan Holaday came in with two outs in the seventh and was able to get Danny Santana to fly out to left to get out of the inning. Holaday, who mixed in several knuckleballs to go along with his fastball, remained in the game and tossed a perfect eighth.
Kepler goes kaboom: With two outs in the second, Kepler gave the Twins a cushion with a three-run homer to right field off Ramos. It was the fourth homer of the season for Kepler, and it left the bat at 95 mph, traveling a projected 370 feet, per Statcast™. The homer, which came on a 2-2 fastball, was Kepler's first career blast off a lefty. He followed that up with another three-run homer in the fifth off Jackson for his first career multi-homer game.
"He did a nice job staying back on offspeed pitches," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think we're seeing improvement in the quality of at-bats day to day. I think when you have a big day like today and you hit a couple over the fence, it bodes well mentally."
Rangers defense starts bad: The Rangers defense could have prevented all four of the Twins' first-inning runs. The frame started with a double by Nunez, a walk to Joe Mauer and Sano's fly out. Brian Dozier hit a grounder back to Gonzalez for a possible double play, but second baseman Rougned Odor dropped the throw at second. With the bases loaded, Kepler hit slow chopper to Moreland, but his throw home was late. The bases remained loaded and Eduardo Escobar hit a double-play grounder to Odor, but he had trouble making the flip to second and Elvis Andrus dropped the toss. The Rangers got just one out on the play and, after a walk to Santana, Centeno singled to center to make it 4-0.
"We set the tone in the first inning with our sloppy play," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We couldn't get out of the first.'
Buxton, Sano keep it going: The Twins already had seven runs headed to the third inning and were able to tack on four more with the help of Buxton and Sano. Buxton sparked the rally with an RBI triple off the right-field wall before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Nunez. Sano added a towering two-run blast to left field with two outs for his first homer since May 29. The majestic shot, which traveled a projected 382 feet into the second-deck, had a launch angle of 40 degrees, per Statcast™. For comparison, Kepler's first homer had a launch angle of 29 degrees. More >
"Sano was a little bit in home-run mode and was a little too aggressive expanding the zone with some swings and misses early," Molitor said. "But he finally got a slider he could handle. So it was good to see him on the home-run board in his return."
Beltre has milestone at-bat:Adrian Beltre struck out in the fourth inning, but it was the 10,000th at-bat of his his career. He is the 26th player since 1900 to reach that milestone in the Major Leagues. More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kepler was the first rookie with seven RBIs in a game since San Francisco's Jarrett Parker on Sept. 26, 2015. The previous rookie record for RBIs in a game for the Twins was six, set by Sano (2015), Oswaldo Arcia (2013) and Tony Oliva (1964).
"Sano was telling me he had eight during the game so I was bummed out about that. But then everybody on the bench was like, 'No, he didn't.' So I'm just honored to achieve something like that." -- Kepler, on his Twins rookie record for RBIs in a game
ESCOBAR EXITS EARLY
Escobar scored from second on Centeno's RBI single in the first inning but suffered a strained left hamstring while running home. He is considered day to day. Escobar initially remained in the game but came out after he flied out to center in the second inning. Santana moved to shortstop, while Robbie Grossman replaced Escobar in the lineup and took over for Santana in left field. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Left-hander Cole Hamels starts for the Rangers at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday against the Twins at Target Field. Hamels has won four straight starts with a 0.65 ERA.
Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-5, 5.12 ERA) is set to start for the Twins in the series finale against the Rangers on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT. Gibson is coming off his best start of the season, as he tossed seven scoreless innings against the White Sox on Tuesday to get his first win of the year.